The story of Manitoba “miracle mom” Janis Ollson inspired readers around the world after she was virtually cut in half to remove cancer then embraced her life with amazing gusto. This week, some of the wind was knocked out of her sails at Victoria Beach when she tried to take her kids to swimming lessons.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/7/2015 (2275 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The story of Manitoba "miracle mom" Janis Ollson inspired readers around the world after she was virtually cut in half to remove cancer then embraced her life with amazing gusto. This week, some of the wind was knocked out of her sails at Victoria Beach when she tried to take her kids to swimming lessons.

She was told she couldn’t take her kids, ages eight and 11, in her wheelchair van into the community due to its restricted vehicle access.

"That’s the part that really does bother me," she said. "Not only was I made to feel unwelcome based on a mobility issue but it’s affecting my children. They shouldn’t be penalized because their mom’s in a wheelchair."

Victoria Beach Reeve Brian Hodgson said Wednesday that Ollson should have ensured she had a vehicle permit before signing her kids up for swimming lessons.

"These things take time."

Ollson said she spoke to the reeve earlier this week and he seemed adamant she isn’t a local resident and if Victoria Beach issues a wheelchair van permit for her, then more people will ask for them.

"He more or less said we have a bylaw with restrictions for vehicles in the park and we’re enforcing that bylaw. If everybody brought in their vehicle you wouldn’t be upholding the bylaw or preserving the way of life in there," said Ollson. "He said ‘I understand and sympathize with you but I’m representing the people.’ "

But on Wednesday, Hodgson said council had voted in favour of granting Ollson a vehicle permit. Ollson said it was too little, too late.

"Unfortunately (it comes) only after making me feel excluded and unwanted."

She had already asked for a refund on her kids’ swimming lessons that were supposed to start Monday and is considering a formal human rights complaint. She wants the council to come up with a policy before someone else gets turned away.

The irony, said Ollson, is they were told on Tuesday — Terry Fox’s birthday — she wouldn’t be given a permit to drive her kids to the beach. The Terry Fox Foundation volunteer who speaks to school children about cancer said it was discouraging. Fox was born July 28, 1958, and died in June 1981 after his cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research ended near Thunder Bay, Ont. "He did this how many decades ago to bring awareness and to change the ways people think," said Ollson from Belair on Lake Winnipeg.

At Victoria Beach, she was told she could take her kids from the parking lot to their swimming lesson at the beach for a $10 taxi ride but the taxi is not wheelchair accessible, she said.

If she could walk, they would park their vehicle and walk to the beach for swimming lessons. Because it’s too far for her to wheel her chair, they’re missing out.

"We’re still battling for something as simple as access to something everyone has access to," said Ollson, who recently received news she’s cancer-free eight years after her drastic surgery.

That battle may be won but Ollson faces many more, along with thousands of other Manitobans, said Allen Mankewich of the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities.

"Human rights code or not, there are still two societies — one for able-bodied people and one for people with disabilities," said Mankewich, the league’s co-chairman. "We’re often shut out of things most people take for granted."

Hodgson said Victoria Beach council doesn’t have a policy when it comes to accommodating persons with disabilities but it will work to have one in place by next summer.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

   Read full biography